Himalayan Brown Bear varies in size but generally appears larger than all other wild animal species in the region. Heaviest specimen recorded as 160 kg the Himalayan Brown Bear is comparatively smaller than Alaskan bear, but no doubt, it is the largest animal on Deosai plateau. Its colour varies from dark reddish brown to light sandy shades. In physique, Brown Bear is characterized by a distinctive hump on its shoulders, a slightly dished profile to the face and long claws on the front paws.
Where in Pakistan Brown Bear Generally Found?
Brown Bear generally occupy a wide range of habitats including dense forests, sub-alpine mountain areas and tundra. In Pakistan, it is restricted to alpine meadow and sub-alpine scrub zones. Some bears have also been spotted in Panma and Biafo Glaciers, whereas a very few Brown Bears are suspected in Chitral, Khunjerab National Park – Gilgit and Neelam Valley, Azad Kashmir.
What Do They Generally Eat?
Brown Bear mainly eats vegetation such as grass, sedge, bulbs and roots. It also eats rodents such as rats, dormice, ground squirrels, hedgehogs, marmots and fishes. In some incidences, Brown Bear in Deosai has been found killing domestic goats and sheep.
The most interesting thing about a bear is its “Winter Dormancy”. In early days of winter when snow starts covering grassland and weather becomes harsh, Brown Bear holds back grazing and other activities in open areas and enters den to spend whole winter. It usually hibernates for five to seven months from November to April. During this, its body temperature, heartbeat and other metabolic rates are reduced. Its requirement for food and water is also eliminated. At the onset of summer, it wakes up and comes out of den in search of food again. Some scientists believe that Brown Bear does not hibernate completely as other animals, which live in cold climates, do.
Under most circumstances, Brown Bear is found lonely when wandering or grazing in grassland. However, female is usually accompanied by its cubs. During the breeding season, a male is used to be associated with a female only for two weeks. Mating takes place from early May to the middle of July, while the baby bears usually come into the world from the months of January to March.
Survival of the Fittest!
Brown Bear in Deosai is a slow moving and breeding animal as compared to its cousins in other parts of the world. In other regions, the litter size is generally one to three and a female usually breeds every three years. But in case of Himalayan bears of Deosai, the litter is limited to just one or two every three to four years. The reason is itself the low population of male animals to make a perfect pair over and over again. Furthermore there are several climatic constraints. For example, being situated at an extraordinary height, there is insufficient oxygen to breathe, which is required adequately for a healthy breeding female. There are many other obstacles from the atmosphere like scarcity of food during snowfalls. Though average life of a Brown Bear is 30 years but in Deosai very few bears survive beyond the age of 20.
Unfortunate Threats to This Animal…
There is also a continuous threat to bear population in all locales of its existence due to the poaching of young cubs. These little bears are captured by gypsy tribes who tame and train them for dancing and circus shows. Since the female is closely attached and very watchful to its cubs, poachers kill the mother first making the young ones easy to capture.
Another threat to Brown Bear is from the hunters for its skin, fats and other body organs. Hunting is usually carried out by the local villagers. Some local quacks believe that its fats and some other parts enhance virility. There is no reality in these thoughts, yet they do misguide people inadvertently or deliberately in order to make money. Sale of bear’s skin and other organs is an established and organized business in northern areas. Professional hunters usually kill adult male Brown Bear and transport its parts to the local markets of Gilgit and Skardu. These practices have been continuing for a long time. Consequently, the Brown Bear’s population has declined to the alarming limits.
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